If bleeding profusely from my vagina every 28 days wasn’t enough…

Apparently I am being taxed for having a uterus! Today I learnt that George Osborne, and many others in government, are of the opinion that the use of tampons and other sanitary items is “a non-essential luxury”. Interestingly George doesn’t have a uterus. However I would be extremely interested to watch him try and shuffle around with a flimsy makeshift tissue hammock in his knickers trying not to let the broken down lining of his uterus trickle down is leg, it’s not easy Georgey let me tell you!

It is incomprehensible that a man, or anyone for that matter, can believe an item intended strictly to control unavoidable bodily functions to be an extravagance that needs to be taxed. This is even more amusing when the various exempt items are revealed. Items such as Jaffa cakes, marshmallow tea cakes, edible cupcake flowers and flapjacks can be found on the list. I can assure anyone that although Jaffa cakes can seem absolutely essential at times, for a 20th century women, sanitary items are unquestionably an absolute base essential that cannot be sacrificed, even for chocolate.

The ‘Sanitary tax’ was introduced in 1973 at a rate of 17.5%. The predominantly male government at the time justified this by stating tampons were a ‘luxury’ and provided a list of jaw-dropingly ignorant alternatives to using sanitary products such as: wearing several layers of dark clothing when menstruating to absorb the blood, or anticipate when blood is expected and rush quickly to sit on the toilet. This legislation fails spectacularly to separate what is considered important to men and what is considered important to women. Women are no longer limited to the confines of domesticity apparent in 1973 and cannot spend up to five days a month confined to their homes catching menstrual blood in buckets. It seems completely logical that the legislation should reflect that, however forty two years after its introduction women are still being asked to apologise for possessing a uterus. In 2000, as a consequence of many years of hard work campaigning, and with the help of Labour MP Dawn Primarolo, the rate of sanitary tax was finally reduced to 5%. Although 5% is a great improvement, fundamentally sanitary tax should not exist at all!

Despite 5% tax on a box of the cheapest pack of 20 non-applicator tampons equating to as little as 7 pence, the size of the profit is irrelevant. This issue is far bigger than money. Legislation that affects women ought to reflect the broad needs of women. This is an issue of equality. Essentially, what’s happening here is that the percentage of the population who have a female reproductive system are being dubbed extravagant for not allowing a natural bodily process to impair their ability to function, socially, personally and professionally. One of the many items that escapes tax is men’s razors. Let us consider this. Beard growth is acceptable, nay celebrated in our society. Men grow, shape and colour their beards and even, once yearly, grow their facial hair as a means of raising money for charity. Whilst this is the case for male hair, it is considered wholly unacceptable for women to allow menstrual blood to flow freely from their bodies, stream down their legs on public transport, be displayed on their clothes or be exposed in public, yet the simple, discreet, reliable method of ensuring this doesn’t happen is deemed an indulgence! This is illogical, contradictory and ridiculous.

A petition addressed to the Chancellor is currently circulating on the internet and can be found at www.change.org. It is important that both men and women stand up for equal rights and do not allow institutionalised sexism go unrecognised. Women have to endure periods in order for our species to continue, that is about as essential as it comes. Women’s needs have to be acknowledged completely in order for our society to function healthily and fairly. We should not have to keep apologising for our role in the continuation of the species, period!

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